The STEM school shooting in Highlands Ranch, CO is disturbing to all of us. We may differ in our convictions of what the main solutions to this scourge in our nation are, but I think we agree on at least three things:
1. These kinds of repeated trauma leave an enormous heart and soul wound on our nation whether they have touched our families directly or not.
2. We must find solutions. This must end.
3. The solutions will include reaching angry, isolated, broken men and helping them to be connected, healed and transformed.
One of the men in a weekly teaching/discussion group I lead, called The Journey, wrote about his feelings on the shooting. One of his best friends has two kids who attend the school. Carl’s words are artistic, honest and emotional and include some implied profanity in quoting the shooter. If you prefer not to see that you can just skip it. But if you’d like to see a heart-level expression of an honestly searching man you can read it by clicking here: “Just One More Shooting Star.”
Another man in the same group agonized over the shootings 20 years ago at Columbine High School, also in the Denver suburbs. In the days after that horror he gave voice to the jarring perspective behind the distorted lies isolated young men believe when they choose to bring random violence into the lives of others. “So My Pain Can Be Heard.”
Most of us are unfamiliar with this kind of despair. Many men and women around us live with it every day. Some of them choose to end their own lives. Others choose to end as many other lives as possible along with their own. Those in the latter category are almost always males. (The STEM shootings brought an exception to this pattern in that one of the suspected shooters was a transgender woman who self-identified as a male. I wonder, did she see this kind of violent act as distorted proof of her “masculinity”?)
I believe most of us who view these horrific outbursts with some degree of honest objectivity can agree that the solutions must acknowledge a critical need to provide better care for those who struggle with emotional and mental health issues. The solutions must include the establishment and enforcement of limitations on the accessibility of weapons of mass violence for those who have no qualifications to own them.
And the solutions must direct specific, convincing, healing, and empowering messages to young men that they matter, and have a crucial place in the world. Without that, they will continue to unleash their pain on the rest of us and sadly choose to be just another shooting star.
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Ps. 40:2, 3
My greatest joy in life is my family. I know, that sounds like the comment you’re supposed to make as a man and father. All I can say is I literally shake my head in wonder at the family I have: my wife Beryl; my daughter Barclay and son-in-law Vince, their four daughters, Bella, Brynn, Brooke and Blake; my son Alec, my son Conor and daughter-in-law Bonnie, their daughter Gemma and son Calvin. Every one of them is a genuine gift. Beyond that, I have a calling that I live out through Peregrine Ministries. It is to help men: Understand their identity in Christ, Embrace their role as men, and Live out their God-given calling in life. Bottom line is I’m convinced men matter and I want to help them live life on purpose.
Wise, heart-felt words. Thanks, Craig for your genuine passion for helping men and boys become mature in Christ.
Yes this is so true. And we are all part of the solution. We can all pay attention and just show up for those around us. See the pain and suffering that is right in front of us – those who are already in our lives – and simply love them, notice them and tell them they matter.
I think you’re right, Mark, so much of what it will take is paying attention and taking the time to care and speak to those who are unseen or on the fringes. Thanks for your comments.
I have been contemplating a response to this post since first reading it a couple of weeks ago but never got around to writing. While driving home today I heard the news of the shooting in Virginia Beach and another 12 people gunned down.
Thank you for sharing Carl’s poem, profanity and all. I recalled a quote from Tony Compolo many years ago when he said “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.” If we are not offended by children being murdered in their schools we sure as hell need to get over the scandal of curse words.
These events do leave a wound on our heart and our soul as a nation. We are traumatizing an entire generation of children who are forced to practice active shooter drills, hiding in closets and practicing being as silent as possible. If you cry, if you move, the shooter may find you. Our children do not know their schools, their churches or their community as safe places and this will have generational impact. Guns are the 2nd leading cause of death of American children.
We must find solutions. This must end. I thought after Sandy Hook, after 20 six and seven year old children were slaughtered in their school that surly we would do something as a nation. What kind of country watches Kindergartners mass murdered and does nothing? This must end.
I am thankful for your ministry and your message that men matter. We absolutely need to reach these angry isolated men and offer them connection and healing. We also must stand against the hatred, ignorance and fear that is used to radicalize and embolden the unstable that is being espoused at the highest levels in our nation.
I appreciated your simple sign off “convinced there’s hope.” I am too. I will leave you with some hope I found in a poem, a book and a friend.
The Poem by Wendell Berry
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
The Book. The Powers That Be by Walter Wink. This book had a profound effect on my understanding of Jesus, the myth of redemptive violence and what the Kingdom looks like.
The Friend. Mike Martin. Mike started RAWtools in response to Sandy Hook. Mike tells stories and facilitates the story of others who have been effected by gun violence while turning weapons of death into garden tools. Literally turning swords into plowshares and making that which was meant for destruction into something that nurtures life. RAWtools is a powerful ministry of healing and reconciliation. Mike also just wrote a book called Beating Guns and just finished a book tour with co-author Shane Claiborne. https://rawtools.org/ I go to church with Mike and served on the board of RAWtools. He is awesome.
Robert, I love what you’ve said. I like your passion, conviction and eloquence. Especially, “What kind of country watches Kindergartners mass murdered and does nothing?” Bring it on. I’ve heard that Compolo quote before. He likes to stir the embers doesn’t he? And what he said is SO true.